Triumph of the Universal Spidey

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Triumph of the Universal Spidey

Michael Adams (born 17 November 1971) British chess grandmaster

British Grandmaster Mickey Adams, fresh from winning the World 50+ Championship, has now scored what he describes as the success of his life by also taking first prize in the 2023 London Classic, at the age of 52.

Mickey Adams has a distinctive style over the chessboard. His moves are delicate , rather than brutal, often spinning a subtle web which ensnares the opposition, rather than blasting them from the board, as Kasparov preferred. If Kasparov’s chess style reminds me of Napoleon at his best, then Mickey recalls that earlier French potentate, the devious King Louis XI, known as “the Universal Spider” (l’universelle aragne), due to the ubiquity and profundity of his network of diplomatic and espionage related webs. Appropriately, Mickey’s nickname is: “Spidey”.

Michael Adams vs. Mateusz Bartel

London Chess Classic (2023),  round 3

1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 Nd7 6. O-O a5 7. a4 f6 8. Be3 Qb6 TN

This game has been heading for somewhat esoteric territory since Black’s sixth move. But Adams is not in the slightest intimidated, and 8. Be3 moved the game on to even more rarified ground. 8… fxe5 has been the most popular response, although …Ne7 and …Qc7 had also been played.

9.Nbd2 fxe5

9… Qxb2 was perfectly feasible, but is unadvisable, for example: 10. Rc1 fxe5 11. c4 Ngf6 12. cxd5 exd5 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nh4 Bg6 15. Nxg6 Nxg6 16. Rb1 Qe5 17. Rxb7 when Black is worryingly undeveloped and his king, exposed enough to caution against this reprehensively greedy alternative.

10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11. dxe5 Bc5 12. Bxc5 Qxc5 13. Nb3 Qe7 14. Bh5+ g6 15. Be2

Should one doubt the purpose of this bishop sortie, one only needs to look at Black’s dark squares, and the unpalatable options for his white bishop.

15… h5 16. Qd2 Qc7 17. Bd3 Nh6 18. Nd4 Qe7 19. Ra3 Bxd3 20. Rxd3 Nf5 21. Nxf5 gxf5 22. c4?

Only Adams can explain what appears to be a loose manoeuvre, which Black easily equalise. Both 22… Qb4, offering an exchange of queens, which White should decline with 23. Qg5 Qe7 24. Qe3; or 22… O-O-O 23. cxd5 Rxd5 24. Rxd5 exd5 25. Qf4 Qe6 26. Re1 Rg8 27. h3 Qg6 28. g3 Qg5 29. Qf3 f4, both of which, the engine declares as dead level.

22… Kf7?

Just wrong. As we have seen, this is not the optimum strategy for equality, and leaves White with a definite pull, after which, begins the inexorable process of strangulating his unfortunate prey before proceeding to the inevitable banquet. It is ironic that White has forced Black to become enmeshed in a web of his own making, as an examination of Black’s pawn structure make plain.

23.cxd5 exd5?!

23… cxd5 was less damaging, as White now has a passed pawn, which he immediately consolidates.

24.Re1 Ke6 25. Rg3 Qf7 26. b4 h4 27. Rb3 f4?!

Black vacates the f5-square for his queen while harbouring delusional possibilities of an attack on the White king after a rook comes to the g8-square. Circumspection with the more resilient 27… axb4 28. Rxb4 Rag8 29. a5 Qh5 (29… Rh7 30. a6 Qg6 31. f3 bxa6 32. Rb6) 30. Rb3 Rg7 31. a6 Qg6 32. g3 hxg3 33. fxg3 bxa6 34. Qb4, still leaves Black hopelessly exposed.

28.bxa5 Rag8 29. Qb4 Rh7?

Black was probably lost already, but lest there was any doubt, this move seals his fate. Prosaically, Black can lose more slowly with either 29… Qg7 or …Qe7.

30.Qd6+ Kf5 31. Rxb7 Qxb7

After the equally desultory 31… Qg6 32. Qxg6+ Kxg6 33. Rxh7 Kxh7 34. e6, Black will still perish as White cannot be stopped promoting one of either the e- or a-pawns.

32.Qf6+ Kg4 33. Qe6+

The wrong means to the end. After this blunder, it is completely indicative of White’s superiority, that such a trifle of an error proves no obstruction to the assault on the vestiges of what is left of Black’s resistance. The terminal and savage cut was surely the immediate 33. e6!!

33… Kh5 34. Qxg8 Rg7 35. Qf8 d4??

For posterity’s sake, it is true that 35… Qe7 offered a more drawn out fate. After the text, it’s over.

36. e6!! c5 37. Qxg7 Black resigns 1-0

37.Re5+ would have been quicker, but after the text, 37… Qxg7 still allows checkmate in 13.

Fortunately, it would  seem that no prominent chess player has ever perished from mental degeneration or the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. I am assured of this encouraging fact by leading Spanish journalist, correspondent for El Pais in Madrid, International Chess Master and expert on Alzheimer’s, Leontxo Garcia Olasagasti.

Alzheimer’s disease is a modern scourge of the elderly. According to Alzheimer’s Disease  International (the worldwide federation of Alzheimer’s associations), “There were an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2015.” In addition to the tragic human cost, mental degeneration has a financial cost of £26.3 billion per annum in the UK alone.

Given the absence of Alzheimer’s amongst chess champions, might it be claimed that chess can help to combat the onset of that specific type of disease? There is certainly a body of opinion prominently voiced by Manuel Lillo-Crespo, Mar Forner-Ruiz, Jorge Riquelme-Galindo, Daniel Ruiz-Fernández and Sofía García-Sanjuan in their 2019 paper, from The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14 June 2019: “Chess Practice as a Protective Factor in Dementia.” {}. Furthermore, there are striking examples of chess champions soldiering on with considerable success into great age. Thus Emanuel Lasker (World Champion 1894–1921) was still performing with distinction in his mid-sixties, inflicting a crushing defeat on future World Champion Max Euwe in 1934. Vassily Smyslov (born 1921 and World Champion 1957–1958) still succeeded in qualifying for the final of the World Title Candidates’ tournament against the youthful Kasparov in 1984. Finally, Viktor Korchnoi (born 1931 and twice World Title Challenger in 1978 and 1981) defeated the young lion, Fabiano Caruana in 2011, a player over sixty years Korchnoi’s junior and himself challenger to Magnus Carlsen’s throne in their match from London a mere seven years later.

It has to be understood that chess may be a sedentary hobby or pastime when played socially, but at the highest level of international competition, chess becomes a sport, indeed a strenuous one, and is recognised as such by the majority of nations in the world, though not the UK.

At the other end of the age spectrum, 14 year old Shreyas Royal completed his second Grandmaster result (in spite of losing a brilliant game against Hans Niemann). Along the way, he also beat the tournament’s second-placed player, M. Amin Tabatabaei. Shreyas needs one more norm for the coveted title.

Ray’s 206th book, “Chess in the Year of the King”, written in collaboration with former Reuters chess correspondent, Adam Black, appeared earlier this year. Now  his 207th, “Napoleon and Goethe: The Touchstone of Genius” (which discusses their relationship with chess and explains how Ray used Napoleonic-era strategies to develop his own chess style) has appeared, just in time to complement Ridley Scott’s new biopic. Both books are available from Amazon and Blackwells.



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Member ratings
  • Well argued: 99%
  • Interesting points: 97%
  • Agree with arguments: 99%
36 ratings - view all

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